In conversation with Ed Carpenter, founder of Very Good & Proper

By Elspeth Pridham
October 15, 2020

Very Good & Proper’s founder, Ed Carpenter, has recently discovered the joy of cooking outside and has been making the most of his Brompton bicycle. 

When was the business founded, and why?  

VG&P was originally founded in 2008 and was a collaboration between myself, André Klauser and restaurateur Patrick Clayton Malone. Patrick approached André and me to design a range of furniture for his restaurant Canteen. We decided rather than just designing and making the furniture as a one-off, it would be much more exciting and fun to approach the commission in a different way. Instead of taking a design fee, we set-up up VG&P and went into business together. All our time and fees were invested into the business for moulds and production of the furniture with the idea that, just like the food in the restaurant, people could buy great quality furniture for a reasonable price.  

It was all very part-time at first, but slowly overtime, it took-off to the point in 2014 when I decided to devote all my time to VG&P, and I became the majority owner and CEO.  

 How many staff?  

We now have about 30 people working for us, something I never imagined when we started out. 

Where is it based?  

Our showroom, design and sales teams are based in Oval, SW9 (in an old converted pickle factory) and our workshop / warehouse is in Walthamstow 

 What is your latest significant achievement/project of note?  

In terms of achievements, its hard to beat our acquisition of Isokon Plus last year. Personally, its such an honour and for VG&P it has given us such a valuable resource and knowledge base. Although we’ve been working together for over 10 years, joining forces has been brilliant for both brands.  

In terms of projects, weve worked on so many and with some fantastic designers and teams its hard to pick one out! We were very proud to be asked to make a special table for Maggies recently – Its such a fantastic charity and I really admire the vision they have, so its lovely to be involved even in a small way.  

 What is your favourite possession? 

At the moment its got to be my Brompton Bicycle. Its been absolutely indispensable during the lock-down and such a joy to ride – a true British design icon.  

 I’ve just discovered  

How much I love cooking outdoors. The circumstances we all had thrust upon us earlier this year meant I spent a lot of time at home and, in-turn, cooking in our garden – I got quite nerdy about it all in the end, sourcing special charcoal and produce to cook, and I loved experimenting with new techniques. The only problem is now Im dreaming of a complete outdoor kitchen with wood fired oven and Groucho style grill – I must remind myself I live in Brixton and dont have the space or budget!    

Who inspires me  

during the summer I read a book by the Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard called let my people go surfing. Its described as the tale of an itinerant climber and the education of a reluctant businessman. On the face of it, youd think there werent many crossovers with what we do, but there were so many things in his story I could relate to and I found it extremely inspiring and refreshing.  

I’ve always been a fan of  

Islay WhiskySo much so I took my brother on a pilgrimage and distillery tour there for his 50th birthday – It was fantastic!  

My highlight of the last 12 months  

Was going on a short holiday to Devon with my wife Helen and two boys for a few days back in July. After being tied to our home in London for so many weeks being given the freedom to travel and visit other places (and friends) felt like such a treat for us all.  

Where would you like to visit once we are allowed to travel more freely?  

I really enjoy showing our products and meeting people during design fairs. This is something Ive missed and not something you can really replicate online easily. So, based on that, Id probably say Milan for the Salone or possibly New York during NYCxDesign. It would be a tough call..